That Irving Berlin song – Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep – from the 1954 movie classic White Christmas – is a great little tune I’ve heard every holiday season my whole life. I love it, and it only took a few decades for its meaning to sink in.
We’re a week away from Christmas and winter truly arrived last week with a polar vortex that brought record-breaking, dangerously cold temperatures to the Northeast and we felt it. Really felt it. So much so that I shed a tear for the poor animals who live outside when I could barely get from my car to my front door without legitimately feeling pain. Although we live in the city, our home is on 23-acres of conservation land where all kinds of creatures make their homes – deer, wild turkeys, birds, fox, coyotes, it’s quite amazing. I worry about them in the brutal cold.
On the first day of the nasty vortex, grey and dreary, winds whipping over 30 miles per hour, I stood in the window and watched a flock of wild turkeys pecking for food around the front lawn. They had to be cold. There I was in my house, all decorated for the holidays and cozy, and I was overcome with gratitude. I not only have heat, but a big wood-burning fireplace we enjoy using several nights a week. It wasn’t just the warmth, it was everything. I was bursting with gratefulness.
Finally feeling the peace, Sir Husband and I are finding this a lovely place to be – on the other side of hardship – dreams seized and nurtured. Sure we still have stress, but normal stress, the manageable stuff that doesn’t seem so huge when you realize you are overjoyed to have heat. And other things, like food, clothes, jobs, and a roof over our heads with indoor plumbing.
I never realized how valuable those things truly were until I was standing in the hallway after a holiday carol service a couple of Sunday evenings ago while it was still fairly warm out (funny that 40 degrees is now considered warm.) I noticed two people right outside the window sitting down on what looked like a ground-level ledge of the building.
We were in a big, old Catholic church built in the early 1900s. It’s stunning actually, and the floor to ceiling windows reveal the fairytale-esque city square that looks like it’s right out of a movie. It was hard not to be mesmerized by the magic of this extraordinary church let alone the amazing voices of the choir performing there that night. And there these two people were, sitting there huddled together talking. I thought it was two college students since we were in Harvard Square. But when I looked closely I could see they were layered in clothing partially-wrapped in sleeping bags, next to them was a full plastic garbage bag – of something. They were homeless and settling in for the night.
I stood there wondering who they were and why they were there, tucked into the nook of a big, brick church trying to stay warm. They looked unfazed actually, I could hear them chatting as if it were two people talking over a dinner table at home. I assumed they would be there all night and wondered if this was their “home.”
While we were inside completely moved by the choir’s angelic voices singing beautiful carols in Latin, German, and old English by candlelight … Silent night…holy night…all is calm…all is bright … they were outside with only the clothes on their backs and a garbage bag by their sides.
Count your blessings instead of sheep. Because baby, it’s cold outside.
Happy holidays ~ See you next year.
(*winter scene photo courtesy of NOAA)